Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
From Goodreads: Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead. She’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, but she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.
“Tell me that and we’ll go. Right now. Save ourselves and leave this place to burn. Tell me that’s how you want your story to go and we’ll write it straight across the sand.”
Okay, I felt like I was trapped into this book. There are so many great reviews for this series but by the end of the first book I was seriously considering why that was. The mythology was interesting but not flushed out enough and vaguely racist? Like, not totally racist but you definitely feel it at certain parts of the book. Hamilton obviously draws on her mythos and the culture of Miraji from middle eastern culture, in a wildly exaggerated way. Like how she can’t stop mentioning that women are worth nothing in Miraji, the men are awful and everyone is down to have like seven wives even though they’re all very poor. I don’t know, maybe she was trying to draw parallels to real world examples, but it comes off as a serious oversimplification of an entire people.
A few other things (SPOILERS):
1. Mixing western themes with what is clearly supposed to be middle eastern mythology didn’t really work in this story. I literally don’t get why that had to be a thing?? It’s like the shittier version of 1001 Arabian Nights set in the Deadwood Saloon. The country is called Miraji, the prince is named Ahmed but the town she’s from is called Deadshot, in a place called Dustwalk. Sounds fake but ok.
2. Dialogue is trite. Main protagonist is supposed to be this sassy, independent badass but she’s annoying like 90% of the time when she’s speaking. Her and Jin are bantering all the time, but mostly it just feels like old jokes you that other movies and other books have done before. ALSO, she gets mad at him because she’s like omg Jin we’ve known each other for two months and you’ve told me nothing about your personal life! As if she’s been offering up details about herself left right and center?
3. The magic was cool, but I wish it had more detail. Some of it was a bit convoluted but I really like the stories about the Djinni. I’d definitely like to read more of that, more than anything else in this book. Her power reveal was sweet too, and it definitely fit her character.
4. The book could have definitely used some flushing out. It seemed like the story was taking it’s time during the beginning but when it got to the nitty gritty – djinni powers, the war, the rebel prince, etc – it seemed like everything was rushed.
This books had a lot of promise but the delivery was weak. There were some characters I really enjoyed though and I’ve heard that the second book is a lot longer, which might be a good thing so we can get some actual substance to this story! I’m probably going to read the sequel but it’s definitely at the bottom of the TBR.
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
From Goodreads: For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without.
Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
Hope hurt more than the cold.
I still don’t get what the hype was all about, this book is mediocre at best. Honestly, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the main character fell in love with a wolf first and then the human. And the best explanation for that is [SPOILERS] she “could have been a wolf herself” if her dad hadn’t left her in a car to die from heat exhaustion. I mean, I don’t think there’s really an explanation that could justify this choice. Not to mention that this “love” she has with her wolf-boy makes Grace, the main character, totally unrelatable.
Not that her winning personality is doing her any favours. She is repeatedly described as “stoic” which is a sad excuse for why she has literally no personality whatsoever. Or at least if she does, she hides it behind her stoic-ness. Ha ha. Also, as typical of many YA novels, her parents are MIA for 99% of this book. But in this books it’s even more noticeable than usual, maybe because the author tries so hard for it to seem normal. I think the whole point was that she acts distant because of her parents, or maybe that’s just me trying to explain away poor character backstories.
Overall the book was okay and maybe the following books would have really immersed me into its universe but I couldn’t get over Grace’s personality. She’s literally the worst. As a side note, I don’t know how slow wolves eat in real life, but I can tell you that if you’re IN THE PROCESS of being eaten alive by wolves, it’s literally too late to save you. Seriously! Like, hungry wolves don’t eat slow.
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
From Goodreads: This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.
Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.
“The truth is what I make it. I could set this world on fire and call it rain.”
To be honest this book wasn’t too bad. It definitely had it’s moments and I appreciate the twists and turns it took. I just wasn’t too into the hype because of two reasons: one the book has a similar concept to Red Rising, in that the world is divided into colours: the Reds and the Silvers, or in the case of Pierces’ book, the Golds. SO it kinda felt like I was reading a ripoff of a popular book??
The second reason was the setting, or the lack thereof. It’s hard to tell when exactly this story is taking place. It sets itself up as a feudalistic fantasy. There’s a Queen Bitch, the King, their hot son(s) and then there’s Mare, our poor village girl. And then [SPOILERS] there’s motorcycles?? And electricity?? And the author kind of just mentions these things in passing like it’s totally normal that this society has horses and carriages, but mans is driving around on a MOTORCYCLE.
The author tries to explain this, kinda. I just remember one scene where the royal family is leaving the city, but they do it by taking a boat up the river. It’s explained that even though there’s faster modes of travel, they like to keep to traditions. Which, I guess could make sense? The technological divide might be a classic case of the Haves and the Have-nots but honestly, if it is, explain it better.